Coming to America: Basketball is just one lesson Navarro is learning on his visit to the US
Posted at 8:53 PM on Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Author: Jim Walker
SOUTH POINT – When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When you’re in America, play basketball.
And that’s the case for exchange student Araceli Navarro, who traveled from Spain to South Point to experience American culture, Appalachian style.
Navarro stays with Caleb Copley’s family and tries to learn new things from people, education to sports. While it was a great learning experience, there was quite an adjustment period.
“I wanted to learn more about American culture and have a different experience, so that’s why I did the exchange,” Navarro said.
“Obviously the first few weeks are kind of weird because I don’t know everyone’s different lifestyles. It’s not bad, it’s just different. But you can learn to live with different people, so it’s a good experience.”
Navarro has a brother, Roman, who is 6-foot-8 and plays college basketball and semi-pro basketball in his native Spain, where players can play both.
“He’s good,” Navarro said of her brother.
Araceli said she played a little basketball, “but not like here.”
“I’ve followed my brother since I was little and I really like basketball and games and watching it. I didn’t know I was going to play, but I just got an offer and I decided I wanted to try.”
But Navarro quickly realized there was a big difference between watching and playing.
“The first week it was kind of hard for me to understand everything and I still have trouble understanding the games. But I’m really trying and getting there, so it’s hard, but not too hard,” Navarro said.
Things may have been awkward for Navarro at first when she arrived in the Copley household, but Caleb Copley said there was an adjustment period for his family as well.
When Navarro arrived, there were some problems with the language – specifically the accent. Copley said Navarro speaks English well and can easily understand her accent, but her Southeast Ohio accent was difficult for her at first.
“She’s been doing English since she was a little kid,” Copley said. “But she said that our accents put her off when she first came here. She could understand the words if she understood what we were saying. It would be the same if someone came here from New York. You wouldn’t have a clue. They don’t pick up the details of our accent.
“She understood girls better than I did. I have a little stronger accent and she had a little more trouble with me. She said that sometimes I talk and she just smiles and nods her head to understand what I’m saying. But she said she has it now. I told her she just had to tell me, and she said, “I know, but I haven’t met everyone yet. I was still trying to figure it all out.'”
Being from Spain and speaking Spanish, Navarro said there is no temptation to use her foreign language to say something nasty to an umpire or an opposing player if she is angry.
“It would be funny, but I haven’t tried it yet,” Navarro said with a laugh.
Learning to understand the game from a playmaking standpoint was made easier by head coach Dave Adams and assistant coaches Todd Pennington, Kayla Fletcher and Wes Hall.
“(Coach Adams) was really nice. All the trainers were friendly. They help me a lot, so I am very grateful to them,” she said.
Although everyone helped her, Navarro said she learned many things, but one lesson stands out to her above all others.
“I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this experience is that you’re independent and you have to learn how to be on your own, not with your parents or with everyone’s help all the time. Try to figure things out for yourself,” Navarro said.
Copley said he was impressed with how well Navarro learned to navigate the area on her own.
“She travels around on her own. She is doing very well. Every now and then she encounters some cultural embarrassment, but we are there to explain things she doesn’t understand. He mostly loves America,” Copley said.
“It opened my eyes to how the rest of the world sees America. When she saw the school bus for the first time, she wanted to take a picture with it. She said we only see you in movies. American culture is so global through movies. She sees things she always thought were only American things. Everyone watches American movies and TV shows. They have TV shows but they are not that good quality. American singers and actors are more global stars.
“She’s 16 years old and she gave up a year of her life to come here and be a part of American culture. That’s how important it is to her. Takes TicToc videos. She did one with an Italian foreign exchange student and one of the American students teaching each other the language as if they were trying to say the same thing in different languages. It went viral in Spain. It had about 100,000 views overnight. She has a lot of followers because they want to see what American culture is like for a Spanish girl.”
One thing Navarro has learned is the most surprising since her arrival.
“I really like high school,” she said. “I really like my class. I just love going to school and I didn’t expect this at all.”
Navarro said everything about the education system is very different from what she experienced in Spain.
“The teachers, how they teach you, all the subjects we have here are different,” Navarro said, then added, “It’s better. I have no doubt about that.”
Copley said Navarro did not despise her teachers in Spain.
“I think the important thing that she felt was that her teachers in Spain didn’t care, she said that the teachers here seem to be more interested, not in what they teach their students, but in their opinions and how students feel about things. It is more of a real attitude and not just teaching and learning. And she loves that aspect of it,” Copley said.
One area Copley said Navarro got extra points was the time she spends in the bathroom getting ready.
“Compared to American women, it’s not that bad,” Copley said with a laugh.
The Copleys have five children – four girls and a boy. The eldest daughter, Addison, is 14 years old, and Navarro is 16 years old.
“This is the first time we’ve gotten an exchange student and we couldn’t have gotten a better one than we did. He gets on well with us and is great with the kids. She and Addison are like best friends,” Copley said.
“We were doing some Christmas stuff the other night and everyone was crying thinking it’s halfway through the year and she’s coming back. She is now one of our family. We took our family Christmas picture and she was in it. It will be hard to see her coming back. I am sure we will go there and visit them. Her grandmother has already said she wants us to come.”
And since Navarro had to learn to live like Americans while in America, it seems the Copleys have a lesson to learn. When in Spain, do as the Spanish do.
“Ensename a vivir español.” (Translated: teach me to live Spanish.)